Tauriel had her phone clasped in her hand, disbelieve written all over her face.
“Wait, let me get this straight. You’re inviting us for dinner to tell us that Faramir has become an uncle? But that’s impossible…Boromir is…”
“Dead, I know, and I thought the same, but it seems life is full of surprises. Come tonight so we can explain everything.” Éowyn said.
“Of course I’ll come, you sure you don’t mind Kíli being there as well?”
“No I don’t mind, he’s practically part of the family anyway, so he might as well come.”
“Alright…how are you and Faramir coping?”
“We’re shocked of course, though I think I am taking it better than him. He can’t believe it. The fact that Boromir never told him hurts immensely and if the woman hadn’t come…well, never mind that for now, you’ll hear everything tonight.”
“I am sensing it’s quite a story. Do you know how Arwen is doing, is she still pissed at Aragorn?”
“Not sure, apparently they talked at length last night after we heard the news from him.”
“Well I hope that went well. I’ve got to go now, but I’ll see you soon. Can I bring anything?”
“Great. No nothing I can think of now.”
“You know what, I’ll raid Thranduil’s wine collection. He won’t miss them, and if he does I’ll tell him it was for a good cause.”
“Haha that would be wonderful, I think we all need something to drink. How is he?”
“Fine I think; he’s away for business.”
“I see, well thanks Tauriel.”
“No problem Éowyn, see you tonight.”
Hanging up, Tauriel stared at her phone for a while. Of all the unexpected things she could have heard, this beat them all. Checking the time, she saw she still had several hours until she was expected at Éowyn’s and Faramir’s apartment. She thanked Valar for having already had her only class today this morning. At least she had time to do some work. Checking the time once more, she calculated Kíli would be on his break right now. She send him a text about the dinner plans, but when he asked for a further explanation, she called him. She wasn’t surprised to find he had a similar reaction as she had, one full of disbelieve. They planned for him to pick her up later at the Mirkwood Estate before driving, with wine and Ereborian whiskey that Kíli said he’d bring, to their friend’s place.
Hanging up once more, Tauriel opened her medical book in front of her to the right page, and tried to concentrate on its content. After reading several pages, her eyes slid to one of the photos on her desk. She kept several, all in neat silver frames with a leaf motive. The first was one of her parents, taken not long before the accident. She had several of her friends. New photos now also included Kíli and even Fíli and Arild. Faramir had taken photos during the archery competition and he gave her one that contained her with Kíli in the background. Their bows were drawn, a look of concentration and determination on their faces as they aligned their arrows with the targets. Though she normally was quite photo shy, Tauriel enjoyed the photo immensely, seeing her clear cut but delicate profile, her intense eyes and some fiery strands of hair that had escaped her braid. She had thought about getting it reprinted in a large size to hang on a wall, though at Kíli’s because hanging it in her own room felt weird. But currently her eyes were looking at a different picture. It was one of Thranduil, Legolas, and herself. It had been taken a few years back. Thranduil had felt better that year after years of sadness. They’d gone on holiday to the coast, just the three of them. It had been a lovely time with great weather as evident by her burnt nose and an overload of freckles. On the photo they were at the beach with the sea as their background. She and Legolas had asked a passerby to take their photo. The man had been a lot of fun and pretended as if they were doing a complete photo-shoot, which led to hysterics. She and Legolas stood in front, his arm around her shoulder, pulling her sideways into him. She had put her large straw hat on his head, and it made him look extremely ridiculous with his long blond hair. He’d thrown his head back in laughter. Behind them Thranduil, had lost part of his usual perfect composure and was smiling widely at the two teens goofing around in front of him. It was one of the few photos Tauriel had of him, where the smile reached his eyes. Looking at the happy photo, Tauriel felt a pang of sadness and nostalgia, wishing they could go back to the heavenly place. They hadn’t gone on holiday as a family since, and she realised she missed it. Trying to focus on her book, she hoped the men were doing fine. When Thranduil got back, she’d suggest to him to go there again once Legolas would be back too. She was sure Lemaril would have approved of the idea.
The hours passed quickly and before she knew it, she received a message from Kíli that he was on his way. Closing her book and throwing on some nicer clothes, she made her way down to the Mirkwood cellars. Growing up in Thranduil’s household, it had been his ultimate goal to make sure his children knew everything there was to know about wine, especially red. Despite not being allowed to drink legally until their 18th birthday, Tauriel and Legolas had grown accustomed to the taste of wine by the time they were twelve. Once they came closer to the legal age, Thranduil had allowed them to go on a drinking spree at home. It had been the only time both of them had been drunk, waking up the next morning with a blasting headache. Ever since then they knew their limit and were responsible drinkers when they went out. Tauriel was glad her first and only drunk experience had been in the safety of her own home, with Thranduil taking care of them, though he had gathered lots of blackmail material from it.
Walking through the cool stone cellar, she inspected the wines on the oaken racks. She ended up picking three bottles. They were rich in flavour but not too heavy. She knew Thranduil tended to choose them when he had to digest information after long business meetings. Thus it would be perfect for this evening. She carefully put them in her bag and walked back up. In the hallway she put on her ankle boots and scarf. She was going through the cloakroom to find her winter jacket when Kíli arrived and rang the doorbell. With a smile she opened up.
“Perfect timing love.” She said giving him a kiss. Kíli grinned.
“Don’t I always?” He teased and handed her his spare helmet. Taking it she locked the door behind her, zipping up her dark grey jacket. The weather had taken a turn and declared autumn officially over. The days after the competition had become chilly. She put her bag with the wine in the compartment behind her and she spotted Kíli’s whiskey.
“Do you have an unlimited supply of this stuff?” And Kíli laughed.
“Just like you have an unlimited supply of wine. I hope you took Thranduil’s favourite.”
“All wine is his favourite, but I can say he’s quite fond of these.”
“Great.” Kíli grinned and started the motor. Not long after they were speeding over the highway to one of the neighbouring cities, Minas Tirith, where Éowyn and Faramir lived.
45 minutes later they stopped at the marvellous white apartment building that Éowyn called home. Faramir had grown up in the steward residence, which was a grand building more in the outskirts of the city. Boromir as heir had lived there his whole life, but Faramir, whose relationship with their father had always been difficult, had jumped at the opportunity to move into the apartment that lay in the centre of the city, especially since he’d helped design the complex when still in university. When he and Éowyn started dating and he brought her there, she fell in love with the place, thus not minding moving in with him there, instead of in her native Rohan.
Parking his bike, Tauriel went ahead of Kíli to ring the buzzer. Within seconds Éowyn’s voice came through the speaker.
“Great, you guys are here, you can come up.”
“Thanks.” Tauriel replied and she and Kíli climbed the seven flights of stairs. The door was open when they arrived. Éowyn was waiting to welcome them, smiling. The two women engulfed each other in a hug, while Kíli and Éowyn exchanged a kiss on each cheek.
“I am glad you made it, dinner is just ready.” They entered and Kíli smiled.
“Great timing again.”
They greeted Arwen and Éomer and finally Faramir.
“By Valar, I never expected to have dinner here for such a special reason. Is it alright for me to congratulate you?” Tauriel asked and Faramir gave a smile.
“It’s all very strange I agree, but I think it’s alright for you to say it. I never expected I’d ever be called an uncle.”
“It’s a long story I am sure.” Kíli said as he gave the other man a firm handshake. “I can’t wait hearing it over this delicious smelling dinner.” And they laughingly agreed.
As they sat down, helping themselves to some wine and food, Faramir told them the story he’d been uncovering since last night.
“It appears my brother was a married man when he died.” This statement already earned him several questioning stares and remarks. “A few weeks ago, Aragorn got a visit from a woman at the hospital late at night. She is a lady from Harad. Her city had been under attack last year and she came as a refugee to Osgiliath, where she met my brother. I don’t know much more detail apart from the fact that they fell in love over time. Thinking about it now, it finally explains his continuing eagerness to return there as fast as possible. She became pregnant not long after. She told Aragorn she had been scared at first and tried to hide it, but of course Boromir found out eventually. They married soon after. The baby, they named him Echtelion, after our grandfather, was born in June this year. I remember when he was back here for a while and he was extremely rested. I thought it was because of reports that the enemy was advancing…not that…If only I’d asked him…If only I’d known…” Faramir fell silent and Éowyn took his hand, giving it an encouraging squeeze before she took over.
“He went back there to spend time with his family. It was during this time that Osgiliath was under heavy attack and out of fear for their safety, Boromir send them to North Ithilien, which was another safe haven at that time. Not long after the hospital was bombed that killed him. While we were burying him, Nashwa, that’s her name, got news of her death. I can’t imagine how devastating that would have been to hear. Being so young, in the middle of a warzone, with an infant and hearing your husband has been killed so many miles away from you.” The whole table became silent and Tauriel felt tears in her eyes. Kíli must have seen them because his hand found hers, their fingers entangling.
“I just wish I’d known, than perhaps we could have gotten her out of there sooner, then Boromir wouldn’t have been there when they attacked…he might have still lived…” Faramir stuttered softly.
“But we didn’t and shouldn’t blame ourselves for it. God knows why your brother didn’t tell us, but we can’t change the past.” Éowyn told him and the rest agreed with her.
“How did she get to Aragorn?” Arwen asked.
“She walked back, an incredibly foolish idea.” Faramir responded.
“And apparently the only option.” Éowyn retorted.
“Indeed, no one in their right mind would do it unless they had no choice. It’s a dangerous and treacherous road. She’s lucky to have made it back in one piece.” Faramir said.
“Anyway, she surprised and scared the hell out of Aragorn when she arrived. At first he didn’t believe her either, in denial, just like us, but seeing the child, he noticed a strong resemblance and agreed to do a DNA test. He didn’t tell us why specifically so we wouldn’t get our hopes up, before he knew for certain. He got the results several days ago and reached us last night. Apparently he’d tried to call before but the lines were dead.” Éowyn finished and everyone fell silent once more, trying to digest all the information. Eating proven fruitless and thus they settled for some light dessert and more wine.
“Does your father know, Faramir?” Arwen asking breaking the silence and he let out a sigh.
“Yes, I told him this afternoon.”
“And? He must be happy.”
“Happy? No. He’s accusing me of being a liar, deliberately reminding him of his favourites son’s death and tearing up his good reputation. No, father refused to believe it and is very far from happy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is currently altering his will, if he hasn’t already done so.” He told them, which led to words shock and disapproval and Éowyn look grim.
“He’s such a despicable man.” She said loudly.
“Éowyn…” Faramir muttered, sounding as if they had, had this discussion far too many times already. “He’s still my father.”
“And he’s still an asshole, and I can’t believe you keep defending him after everything he’s said and done to you.”
“Let’s discuss this later.” Faramir offered and poured himself and Éomer some more of Thranduil’s wine while Kíli refilled his glass of whiskey. Éowyn looked displeased but let it slide, downing her own wine.
“What’s the plan now?” Kíli asked.
“Aragorn has made sure Nashwa and the child will be on the first available flight to Minas Tirith. From there they will go through some tough immigration routine, Gondor can’t be careful enough of course. We will do everything we can to support them. Of course, with the DNA test confirming the child is related it shouldn’t be a problem getting him in, but for her it’s a different case. She’ll probably be allowed in, but it’s not sure how long she can stay. She’s from Harad, came to Osgiliath as a refugee and her Westron is very limited. Éowyn has managed to secure housing for her in Rohan, where she will get language classes. But the Gondor and Rohan governments want her to work as soon as possible. They are afraid that refugees will start creating problems. So if she doesn’t live up to their expectations, there’s the fear that she might get send back.”
“That would be barbaric! She’s obviously very determined and intelligent.” Tauriel observed. “I don’t think many would have been able to make the long journey with a child and being smart enough to go to the right person immediately. I am quite curious to see what’s she’s like.” And she saw the others nod in agreement.
“Perhaps you can persuade her to shoot with you.” Éowyn suggested dryly.
“Or you’ve found yourself a new sparring opponent.”
“Who knows, she might actually be normal and into drawing and reading, or perhaps she’ll be a willing shopping partner.” Arwen sighed as she stared at her two friends accusingly, causing everyone to laugh, lifting some of the thick tension.
“I am just curious about the woman who seduced my brother, the man who claimed to be unseducable – if that’s even a word.” Faramir said, his voice lined with a harsh edge. Éomer put his hand on his friend and soon to be brother-in-law’s shoulders.
“I am sure she’s a fine person. Your brother wasn’t an idiot and he was very good at reading people. I think it is more likely he seduced her than the other way around.” And Faramir shrugged his shoulders.
The rest of the evening passed with the friends reflecting on the past events and what was still to come. Nashwa and baby Echtelion would arrive on the coming Monday, five days away. Tauriel hoped Faramir would have given the information a restful place in his mind and heart by then. But she could definitely understand his hurt and distress. She hated it when Legolas kept things away from her, as did Kíli with his own brother.
That night they lay together in her own bed for once in Mirkwood, but sleep was faraway. In silence they stared at her ceiling that she had painted to resemble the night sky with its many constellations.
“I think, if we’d ever be in such a situation, I’d rather die with you than go through all that pain.” Tauriel said softly and Kíli shifted and turned to look at her in the darkness. His hand traced her naked form.
“Perhaps, but if you’d have the choice, wouldn’t you try to save me?”
“Even if that meant giving your own life?”
“…Yes I would.”
“I would personally be incredibly angry if I sacrificed myself for you, only for you to then follow soon after.”
“What would you do, ignore me for all eternity?” And Kíli laughed.
“I would never be able to do that, but I’d probably be angry for a long time.”
“Hmmm I think I would be too, the other way around.”
“It’s terrible to think about love, I’d rather think about living my life with you like this.” He said and Tauriel softly pressed her lips against his.
“Yes I would too. But it’s not all tragic.”
“A part of Boromir still lives on in this little boy who came out of a short but loving union. Isn’t that also a wonderful thing, especially looking at what the child has survived already.” Kíli thought about it for a few seconds. Then he gathered her into his arms.
“Yes, I suppose it is love.”
And with that they fell asleep.